Pic: Herbarium toolkit. Credit: Picture: RHS/Joanna Kossak
A vast new online resource will soon be available to gardeners. The RHS has digitised – and thereby futureproofed – its collection of dried plant specimens, the largest in the UK.
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More than 86,000 specimens stored at RHS Wisley have now been sorted and photographed. In the process, the charity has unearthed long-forgotten horticultural treasures, including a potato collected by Charles Darwin. The oldest specimens date back to 1731. They will all be available to search on the RHS website from autumn 2020.
The RHS collection is already an essential resource for garden plant identification, containing authoritative specimens that can be used to settle disputes. Gardeners will be able to use the digitised collection to identify plants, compare cultivars, and plan planting schemes.
In 2020, the physical collection will move to the new National Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning that will open at Wisley. The fast-expanding collection needs a lot more space – and in its current location, it has to be frozen every 12 months to ward off biscuit beetle, a pest that devours dried plant material.
The building of the new National Centre has been enabled by a £4m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the RHS is fundraising a further £3.3m to complete the project. Gardeners can contribute by adopting one of the herbarium boxes that house the dried collection.
Find out more at www.rhs.org.uk
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